Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Growing slowly but surely

After 3 weeks * 2 weeks and a day of hovering patiently monitoring my new African Violets, most of the curly, twisted plants are looking better. It's what I'm telling myself, anyway!
An honest count of the leaves I've put down as insurance points out there may be a problem. IF every one of them produces one healthy, strong plant... that's 36. The reality of leaf propagation is you might multiply that by 3. Or more. 
(I once had a leaf that put out 17 plantlets.)

If you do the math, you see the potential for chaos & over population from one innocent looking tray.
* Clearly math is NOT my strong suit.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Conflicted by new use for African Violets

Sometimes you just have to laugh!

Exploring the internet with African Violet in the search engine still doesn't list this blog . . . yet?
Even with the exact title typed in, google says it can't find anything. Alas!  
Maybe that's just as well for now. :)
What I did find was a sometimes humorous advice column that mentions African Violets more than once so I thought I would share. 
     From CaptainAwkward.com
What flower says "I used to really like you?"
Reader Question #5: How do I deal with a clingy friend 
who tries to make over my life?
"Dear Friend, please take this African Violet as a symbol of the close and wonderful friendship we once shared. Please enjoy it in good health, and if you are having a problem or just want to chat, please call someone else from now on."
* Opinions by Captain Awkward do not necessarily reflect my views. All advice, regardless of who delivers it, should be considered carefully before attempting.

Especially if you plan to share your plants! 
If I ever give you an African Violet THIS is probably NOT what I meant by it!

* I don't generally read advice columns so you'll have to google for yourself if you want to read any of their other advice.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vintage African Violet book excerpts

* From 1001 African Violet Questions Answered by 12 experts

Helen Van Pelt Wilson, Editor ~1958
My edition only has 12 experts. I think a later version has 20...

Question 156.  I am asked, is egg-shell water beneficial?

Mr. Sheldon Reed answers: It might be useful to chickens, as they need to get their calcium back again in order to make more egg shells. Violets do not crave calcium. (SCR)

My curiosity about different ways to use egg-shells remains!
In the AVSA magazine dated July/August 2004 - Volume 57 (page 53) an article reprinted by David Buttram on PLANT NUTRITION indicates Calcium is an important element not usually found in fertilizer, but is normally added to the soil in the form of Dolomite Lime.
Wouldn't dry, pulverized egg-shells make a suitable substitute?
This topic, along with a kid-craft project was posted on my other blog when I first came across the egg-shell question from this book. When extra plants are available on my shelves for experiments my inner mad scientist will play!

Mr. Sheldon Reed answers some more questions: 
(P.S. I sense a touch of sarcasm in some of the answers in this section, but it could just be me... ;)   
149. [Do you plant seeds by the moon] - "I tried it once but the light was so poor I couldn't tell the seeds from the sand! Since then I have always planted on Sunday morning when the rest of the family is in church..." 
150. [My neighbor says to spray plants with sugar water...what does this do for them?] - "It makes them sticky, as well as the kitchen floor." 
155. [On cutting leaf stems a different length to control characteristics of offspring] - "At this point the sophisticated reader should be able to answer this one without a book."
On cross-pollinating:
135. [Which For the Seed Plant?] - "... If you want to have variegated plants, you must use the variegated parent as the mother."

* I started a thread on Violet Voice in 2009. Rather than bounce it back to the top I'm going to expand here as I go through more of the book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Full Circle AGAIN

An Old Journal Entry {7/2003}

Thanks to a very special AV friend in Montana - the first far away friend I made on the internet! - I'm able to republish a copy of an old journal entry I wrote on Violet Voice. 

For six months I have been growing AVs fairly well. Not show stoppers by any means. Most of my mature plants are still of the no name variety. But they’ve been blooming their little hearts out since last fall and just lifting my spirit beyond measure.
Little did I know what a wide and wonderful world of African Violets existed when I typed the word “composting” into the search engine. I hoped to improve my outdoor gardening skills a bit and stumbled across the GardenWeb african violet forum.
I explored the Internet for more!
I joined several groups and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere provided by people who shared a love of this little plant. I found that with just a little courage, joining in on conversations wasn’t so hard. Answers were freely given and rarely was any question considered dumb!
A few basic changes seemed all that was needed. A lighter soil mix, better light source, a little fertilizer and consistent watering habits, rather than the hit or miss routine my plants had suffered in the past. It seemed to be the answer. For the first time in years blooms appeared everywhere at my house!
Maybe it was overconfidence from recent successes. I was beginning to think I had figured out the secret. AVs had stopped coming to my house to die.
What have I done?
Just when I thought I had redeemed myself for killing African Violets all those years, my progress may have taken a bit of a set back this week. I found my Violet Voice Mystery Project plant near death this morning. The plant had gone limp overnight and brown soft spots appeared on the outer row of leaves.
Last week I found a white fuzzy speck on one of the other project plants. I pulled leaves from it, repotted to a smaller size and sprayed them all. A day or two later there was some on another plant. Several plants were isolated together and I feared they were all headed down the same path. This called for more drastic measures!
Maybe I over did it?
Was it the soil drenching & more spraying, damage to the roots when I potted down? Too slow in draining after the drenching? Over use of a systemic addition to the soil mix. Okay. Maybe it was doing ALL of the above in the same week?
There’s still some hope - the center is still green - at least the last time I checked. And I have a few leaves set from when it first arrived in the mail. The other plants seem okay. I’m hoping for forgiveness and one more chance with this Mystery!
Thanks to the generosity of new friends and a b-i-n-g-o victory, trays of leaves are scattered around the house. Anticipation is high as each sprouts tiny new growth at its base and holds the promise of wonderful varieties to come.
And I’ve been humbled.
There’s much more to learn and it will come mostly from trial and error. EXPERIENCE! Will this set back cause me to give up…quit? NEVER! 
I did learn a little about composting as well, so if I have to make that long walk out to the corner of the garden where my compost bin sits, I guess I will have truly come full circle.

Change a few of the basic points and this journal entry would be about the same had I written it for 2012.
Full Circles!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

While I wait for things to happen on the plant stand . . .

Reading things found on the Net!

There's a lot of interesting things to read about African Violets on the internet. 
Some of it may be a load of crap!
As with most subjects, much of the advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I found this interesting:
(In a Homeland Security finally has a useful side effect kind of way :)

"Researchers at the University of Warwick have found how a citric acid-based Achilles heel used by a pathogen that attacks the popular African Violet house plant could be exploited not just to save African Violets but also to provide a potentially effective treatment for Anthrax."
At Dave's Garden:
A list of 13 articles popped up that I haven't gone through yet, but they look interesting with titles like  
Aquarium to Terrarium, Tips and Tricks on Keeping Pests Out of Your Houseplants, Add a Little Leprechaun Magic to Your Houseplants... and African Violets with GIRL foliage, what sweethearts!

At the African Violet Society of America (AVSA) there's a sample of articles found in the magazine sent to members 6 times a year. My membership lapsed in 2004. Trying to decide if I want to renew at their website or take advantage of one of the deals offered by growers of a free plant or leaves. 
Shipping is extra and if you have to pay shipping, you might as well get a couple more. 
You see the slippery slope?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taking final stock

Rob's Combustible Pigeon

Documentation - Day 3.

I thought I would get pictures of the last of my Ebay-purchase plants for purposes of tracking their progress.

I hope I'm not wrong to think these can all improve in a short time. With each round of new leaves, and as leaves grow out full sized, if there's no marked improvement I'm going to be bitterly disappointed!

Perhaps my hopes & expectations are set a bit too high?

Beca's Pink Crochet
With each new photo I took this morning and with every edit & trim, the imperfections were magnified. It is a little disheartening knowing how far some most of these have to go.

I hope I don't regret this Ebay impulse! 

"I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks!"

Reflection's of Spring
Lollipop Kid
Kandy Kitchen
Cupid's Jewel

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back away from the plants!

Lime Jewel

Later on Day 2.

Halfway into writing the previous entry I went to the light stand to take a few pictures. You must have pictures on a blog!
I wanted to document the curly leaves of Lime Jewel so that if when it improves I can show happy before and after pictures.
That's the plan...

While I was at it I wanted to get pictures of my recycled reservoir.
Recognize it? 
Coleslaw dish from Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Told Tom we were going to eat there again soon. For a good cause!

I was kind of messy re-potting the new arrivals. Nothing has had a bath or even been brushed with a soft paint brush yet for any kind of grooming. Figured they had enough stress trekking across country.  It could wait a few days. 
There was dust all over the top of the red cover so without thinking I blew onto it to take some of the dirt out of the next camera shot. Went flying in all directions for 2 feet across my sewing room table.  CRAP.

Lime Jewel may be one of those plants I'll need to start by leaf and grow completely under my own conditions. Right now it's hard to believe this ugly little duckling is ever going to straighten out. I took at least 5 leaves off when it arrived and several are propagating. 
(I did pretty well NOT planting every leaf I removed.)

Already with the oops!

Storybook Princess

Day 2.

I turned on the lights for the day and stopped to take a quick peek to see how everything was doing. (Because so much could happen in 24 hours, right?!)
Are leaves still firm? 
Hefted a plant pot to check weight - nothing is dried out so leave the water bottle alone!
Are the leaves relaxing yet and becoming less curled?

And then it happened.
Blueberry Kisses
I admit it: I touch leaves. 
Just about everything ever written say's don't do it!  
But it seems I {still} can't seem to help myself. 

Maybe they need help laying flatter?  

I rotate pots trying to get the leaves to turn towards the light in attempt to help them self-straighten. I pressed down lightly on Storybook Princess and there was lots of flexibility. I thought, "You look better already!" 
And moved on to her neighbor, Blueberry Kisses
A light press of my finger to see if that leaf sticking up in the air would settle down. Crunch. The sound and feel of a leaf stem snapping nearly off. Damn!
The little voice in my head said, "See, I told you so...no hovering!"

The tag "oops" will probably see many more entries fall into that category as I go along. {Sigh.}

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

3rd time's the charm?

Let's begin with forgiveness.

I didn't kill all those other African Violets on purpose!  I'm going to try very hard to treat the ones that come into my possession in the future much better.
Honest, I will do my best.

I'm starting over.
(Turning over a new leaf!)

The lights are back on.
I found a 30% off sale and shipping was 1/2 off if you ordered 10.
So, I ordered 10 from Jack's Violets on Ebay :)

Kandy Kitchen
Storybook Princess
Beca's Pink Crochet
Blueberry Kisses
Heaven's Reflection
Lime Jewel
Reflections of Spring
Rob's Heat Wave
Cupid's Jewel
Lollipop Kid
Rob's Heat Wave
Rob’s Combustible Pigeon (Gift)

My starting-over order arrived Tuesday!
According to track and confirm it was mailed Saturday from Texas and landed in Maine Sunday night/Monday morning. Delivered safely into my hands before the mail lady got halfway up the drive Tuesday because I saw her coming from around the block and walked down to meet her.

I will say the packing may have been the best I've opened ever. Less than 10 over the years as the measuring stick, for what that's worth. 
But still . . . !
Hardly a speck of soil out of place, only a few immature leaves on the edges mushy, a few broken stems - admittedly two during unwrapping! A couple of plants have center leaf damage - cracks from getting folded and will need to be removed eventually, as the plant grows out. The plants show a bit of twisting and curly leaf growth that looks more like perhaps they were crowded and a lack of grooming, rather than real problems. They're clearly young starter plants, but at 30% off and half-price shipping I have no complaints. 
(Full price might have been another story.)
Heaven's Reflections

There's a long way to go before any of these are "show quality" . . . although the only shows I've ever participated in were the virtual kind on Violet Voice. Mostly it's going to take patience while they do their thing.
And NO Hovering!

I had my nephews for the day so not much beyond unpacking them and spreading them out in a tray happened yesterday. Today I got to put my fingers into plant pots and make a tidy little mess. At a relaxed pace so I could enjoy AVs once again.

My 1st order in 3 years have been re-potted, suckers removed with great care. Oops. Perhaps one little slip with an Exacto knife trying to cut a sucker off so that it might be big enough to keep. We'll see how that went in a few days!

Sorry, Laurie.
that's me :)